Making Much of Jesus
March 25th, 2018 sermon
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
What do Palm Sunday and today’s first year anniversary of Perry Creek Church have in common? In both we celebrate, praise, and worship Jesus Christ as Messiah and King!
As Christians today, we want to make much of Jesus as His followers did.
In His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem for Passover, less than a week before He was crucified, Jesus’ disciples were joined by a crowd to recognize Him publicly as royalty, and welcome Him to the City of the King (Luke 19:28-40).
According to Luke 19:28-40, we want to “make much of Jesus” for three reasons:
1. Because Jesus Christ is a miracle worker. (Luke 19:37). Not only was it a miracle for Jesus to find and get the donkey for Him to ride on to Jerusalem, but he had just previously raised Lazarus, who had been dead for four days (John 11:1-44).
2. Because Jesus is the Messiah-King. Just as the angels sang of Jesus’ glory at His birth (Luke 2:14), the crowd and His disciples now praise God for the “King who comes in the name of the Lord”, bringing “Peace in Heaven and glory in the Highest!” (Luke 19:38)
3. Because Jesus Is the Master of Creation. When the Pharisees demanded Jesus rebuke His disciples because they were acting as if Jesus were divine, He forcefully replied: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) As Master and Redeemer of Creation, Jesus created this world and is able to restore this life and the world (broken by man’s sin) to be what He made it to be: full of hope, love, and freedom. (Romans 8:14-25)
At Perry Creek Church, we believe God is in control and will renew all life and creation. He is our reason for existing, our meaning in life. We are not made as an end to ourselves or alone, but to serve Jesus the King who reaches out to each of us with His Spirit, with the same compassion, truth, and power today that He did while on earth. And the best way we can serve our community is to bring people to Jesus! It’s not about our deeds, but about praising, worshiping, and obeying Him, our King and our Lord.
Jesus, Messiah-King, continues today with His miracles within ourselves and our relationships to change us into the people He made us for: His beloved children serving others within His creation. As His followers, may we all “make much of Him” every day of our lives.
- Have you ever seen Jesus perform a miracle? Share! How has this changed your perception of Jesus?
- How does your life proclaim the kingship of Jesus? Is He your king — in part? in full?
- What does Jesus mean when He says: “If they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out”? Is this literally true? Do we keep quiet…..in praising and worshiping God?
- According to Romans 8:18-25, what will creation be like when Jesus makes it right?
- Luke 19:28-40 gives us three reasons we want to make much of Jesus (See above). Do you know any more?
- Do we always remember that the best way we can serve our community is to bring people to Jesus? Is this truly a priority? What could get in our way of doing this?
Today is a really special day here at Perry Creek for a couple of reasons. First, it’s Palm Sunday! Palm Sunday is kind of a strange custom if you’re not real familiar with Christianity. It’s basically the day that we remember what is called Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem – a time when the crowds joined his disciples and welcomed him into the Capital of Israel, waving Palm branches in celebration and carpeting the road with their cloaks. It was a time when many seemed to recognize Jesus as Messiah and King. Today is the day we commemorate that! That’s why we had the kids start the service the way they did. So first this is a special day because it’s Palm Sunday.
Second, today is special because it is the very first anniversary of the Church at Perry Creek! On Palm Sunday of last year, our church had its first official service. Many of us here had signed our membership covenant the previous week. We had placed our thumbprints on this poster. We had a baptism service where I absolutely killed my back. Remember that? I think it was Jim Higgins. Jim, I need to thank you – that’s the most righteous injury I have ever had! I loved telling people “Oh, I hurt my back baptizing.” So on Palm Sunday of last year, I preached our Church’s first official sermon from a chair, and the Church at Perry Creek was born!
This is a really big day for us! It’s a celebration on two levels. As I thought about, today I was looking for a Bible text that fit both occasions Palm Sunday and our First Anniversary. Then I realized “That’s easy! A story of Palm Sunday fits both occasions.” Because at their core, Palm Sunday and our Church are really all about the same thing: They are about making much of Jesus, making a big deal out of Him, and making Jesus the star of the show!
So Perry Creek, that’s what we are going to do today: We have been working hard in Ephesians. It’s been good. We’ve been doing some theology and looking at sin and talking about our identity in Christ and Christian virtues. Today we’re going to take a break and we’re just going to celebrate! We’re just going to look at the story of Palm Sunday, also called the Triumphal Entry. We’re going to read the story in Luke’s gospel, and we are going to make much of Jesus. So let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Luke 19:28-40. Today we are just going to do two very simple things:
- We’re going to see the fact that people made much of Jesus in this story and
- We’re going to see three reasons why they did that.
These reasons are very simple. If you are a believer in Christ, they will be good reminders for you. If you are not a believer, they may challenge you to think in new ways. They all relate to who Jesus is. It’ my prayer that for the same reasons we see in this story that we too, as individuals and as a Church, will choose every day to make much of Jesus. Let’s just read the story of Palm Sunday. Luke starts the story this way:
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up toward Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
– Luke 19:28-40
We are going to learn two simple things from this passage, and the first is this:
We want to make much of Jesus
If you don’t know the story of Palm Sunday, let me say it was a Day when – like at no other time in Jesus’ ministry – people made much of him. That’s what we want to do at Perry Creek. We want to make much of Jesus.
Let me walk you through the story. This happened near the end of Jesus’ ministry, less than a week before he was crucified. By Friday, the crowds will have turned on Jesus. By Friday, the disciples will have deserted him. And by Friday, the Pharisees will have executed him. But here on Palm Sunday, they made much of Jesus.
At this point in the story, Jesus has joined hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims. He and the disciples are headed to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Passover was one of Israel’s great Holy Feasts. Devout Jews were supposed to observe it in Jerusalem. As Jesus and his disciples headed to Jerusalem for Passover, they came to the outlying town of Bethany. They had stopped at the home of his very close friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. There Jesus had not only encouraged his friends, but he had done what was undoubtedly the greatest miracle of his ministry which we’ll talk more about later. He did this miracle in a very public way. A lot of people saw it.
As Luke picks up the story, Jesus is leaving Bethany and heading once more for Jerusalem when he sends two of his disciples on a strange mission. He has them go into Bethphage, a suburb of Jerusalem. He tells them the exact place where they will find a young donkey colt tied up. He tells them the exact words to say if anyone questions them for taking the donkey. He tells them to get the donkey and bring it to him. Sure enough, everything goes exactly the way he said it would. The disciples go they find the donkey. The owners try to stop them. They say “The Lord has need of it.” I don’t know if the owners somehow knew Jesus or if this was some kind of Jedi mind trick or what, but it worked! They release the donkey, and the disciples bring the donkey to Jesus.
When they bring the donkey to Jesus, His disciples begin to make much of Him. Luke tells us that they threw their cloaks on the donkey to make a saddle for him. He began to ride the donkey. As they got closer to Jerusalem, the disciples began to take off their outer garments and lay them down on the road. I don’t know if their garments were red, but if they were, they were literally rolling out the red carpet. They were carpeting the road for Jesus. They were publicly recognizing him as royalty.
Then as they went further and neared the gates of the city, something amazing happened. The crowd joined in. The other gospels tell us that the crowd that had followed Jesus from Bethany began to mix with the giant crowd of Passover Pilgrims. They began to talk about who Jesus was and what they had seen. They made much of him. So some people in the crowd began to join the disciples in throwing down their garments. Others cut down Palm branches, which were the sign of a returning King. They began to wave them as Jesus rode by. All of them began to shout “Hosanna,” which means “Save now!”
They are finally giving Jesus some of the praise he deserves. They are recognizing him as royalty. They are welcoming him into the City of the King. After three years of hiding Jesus’ true identity and of suppressing many of his miracles (if you read the gospels, Jesus often silences Demons he has cast out, and people he has healed from revealing his true identity), after 3 years of that and of listening to him teach in parables so that his claims were hidden from hostile eyes, the time has come. The twelve are now free to say what they have longed to say all along. They are identifying Jesus for who he is. Jesus’ other followers are joining in and the crowd is going wild. They are making much of Jesus.
Can I just state the obvious today? That’s what we are here to do at the Church at Perry Creek. We’re here to make much of Jesus. Guys, there are many things that we add to the heart and the essence of church – things like mission statements, and ministry vision, and programs, and theological details. These things are not necessarily bad. But if you strip those away, what we are really here to do is make much of Jesus Christ.
We at Perry Creek are people who have been changed and are being transformed, not by religion or self-discipline or by our inner goodness, but by Jesus! He has changed us. We will never be the same again. And at our core, what we are about is making much of him!
What we’re really here to do is make much of Jesus. We are delighted to serve this community and this school. Many of you did that so beautifully this week. We love doing that! But make no mistake: We believe that the best way we could serve this community is by introducing people to Jesus. It’s all about him. We love our friends here at Perry Creek. Kelley and I were saying this week that we have such amazing friends here. We are so thankful. But this church isn’t based on friendship. It’s not just a social club! We are here because Jesus has brought us together. We believe that if you follow God, he will make your life better. I believe that Christianity makes better employees, better families, happier people. But we’re not primarily here for self-improvement. We’re here because we believe that Jesus is God incarnate. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. We were made to worship him, and that’s what we want to do. We are here to make much of Jesus. We don’t ever want to lose sight of that as a Church! First, we are here to make much of Jesus! Secondly, I want to say:
We want to make much of Jesus for three reasons
There are many more than just three reasons, but this story gives us three big reasons we want to make much of him. Let’s look at these one at a time.
1. Because Jesus is a Miracle Worker
Look at what Luke says:
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
They praised Jesus for the miracles that God had done through him.
– Luke 19:37
Jesus was a miracle worker. We see it all through his ministry, even in this story. As Jesus comes near Jerusalem, he has just told his disciples things he could not normally know – where to find a donkey, that the donkey had never been ridden, and the words to speak to the owners so that they would release the donkey to his service. Jesus was a miracle worker.
If you know the full story of the Triumphal Entry, you know that they had much more to praise Jesus for. Because right before Jesus made this Palm Sunday Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, he had done something unheard of. John’s gospel tells us that his friend Lazarus, who lived in Bethany the place Jesus was coming from, had been sick very sick. That much to everyone’s confusion when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick , he didn’t go to him. He didn’t pray for him. He stayed where he was for two more days until Lazarus died. Then Jesus took four days to travel to Bethany. No one could understand it. The disciples were confused. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters were angry. The crowd was perplexed. Then Jesus went to the gravesite, shouted to Lazarus in a loud voice and raised him from the dead. Out of the ashes of great tragedy Jesus had brought an unheard of miracle.
John’s gospel makes it very clear that’s why the crowd was following Jesus – that’s why they had gathered people who were going in and out of Jerusalem for the Passover came into contact with people who were coming from Bethany and had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. That’s why Luke says they were praising God for all the miracles they had seen. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is a miracle worker.
Some of you have seen Jesus work miracles in your life. You’ve seen Jesus deliver people from danger or addiction. You’ve seen him provide supernaturally. You’ve seen him heal in amazing ways. Some of you have had Jesus reveal things to you that you couldn’t know through natural means. We do want to be careful about throwing that word “miracle” around. Sometimes I think we use that word too lightly. But, you know, it was God!
If you know my story, you know that there was a time when I was abducted by some very bad people in Zimbabwe. And God saw to it, through some very strange circumstances, that just the right people were in just the right place to release me unharmed. Kelley and I have seen him provide for us so many times in amazing ways. The car Kelley drove to church today. We needed a car. We prayed about what we thought was a reasonable, reliable vehicle. We had $0 for it. But as we prayed, people began to randomly give us gifts – maybe 30 different people gave us gifts. But when we added it all up it was within $5 of the price of the car and the gas we purchased to go get it and the meal we ate on the way.
Now here’s the thing: You can tell me there’s a perfectly legitimate non-miraculous scientific explanation for that. Maybe you are technically right. But it was Jesus! It just was we serve a miracle working Lord.
He’s the Lord of Perry Creek Church. We believe that he guides this church, just like he guided the Disciples to find that donkey. He takes us where we need to go. I was confused when Jesus moved us out of our comfortable space down the street with the big glass windows and the fireplace and put us in a school. It didn’t make any sense to me, but Jesus was guiding us. That’s the best thing that ever could have happened to our church in terms of doing what we are supposed to do and fulfilling the Great Commission. We serve a miracle-working Lord who’s guiding us.
Can I just say something to some of you today? Some of you are right in the middle of that miracle-working cycle. Things are looking really dark right now in some part of your life. There’s a tough situation, and you cannot seem to make it come right no matter how hard you’ve tried. And some of you, you’re confused. You’re looking for Jesus, and he’s not showing up the way you want him to. You’re wondering what God is up to.
Let me just say “Hold on. Hold on.” You serve a miracle-working Lord, and this is his way. His power is most evident when we are powerless. That’s when we learn to see his goodness and trust him. So hold on. Remember if Lazarus doesn’t die, he can’t be called out of the tomb. No Good Friday. No Easter. No crucifixion. No resurrection. The Lord of this church and the Lord of your life is a miracle-working Lord. If you belong to him, he has plans for you, and he’s active in your life. We make much of Jesus, because Jesus is a miracle worker.
2. Because Jesus is the Messiah-King
Look at what the crowd says:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
– Luke 19:38
Now, notice what they are saying there. They are calling Jesus the King who comes in the name of the Lord. And because he has come, they are declaring peace in heaven. He is the means of peace between heaven and earth, and they are saying “Glory in the Highest.”
If you have ever heard the Christmas story from the Bible, those words may remind you of the Heavenly Host who appeared in the sky at Jesus’ birth and proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and on earth Peace, goodwill toward men.” Remember that? Well, the crowd is saying here what the angels said there. They are declaring Jesus to be God’s Messiah.
He is the divine King, who will make peace between heaven and earth. He is the King of Kings, the Messiah who for just one moment in this story is getting a tiny bit of the praise he deserves. He is our King, our Lord. Here’s the thing: We no longer live for ourselves. We live for him. That’s what we were made to do. I don’t know if you know that but we were each one of us made to live for something greater than just ourselves.
Let me give you a really silly example. You know at nine minutes past midnight on Thursday night of this week something amazing happened: The Kansas State University Wildcats basketball team who were playing without their best player who had three other players fouled out on the bench whose tallest player at the end of the game was two inches shorter than Kentucky’s shortest player, made basketball history by defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 61-58.
It was a big deal! Kansas State fans everywhere went nuts! All 43 of them! I woke Kelley up when there were 7 seconds left and said “They’re going to pull it off!” She said “No way!” and started cheering and we won! Then I said “Boy! I want to text Calvin, but it’s a school night, he’s probably not awake” but before I could get to my phone, Calvin texted “Go K State!” Then I said “I wish Elisabeth was up, but she has to work tomorrow but then she texted me and said “Take that Kentucky!” And then I texted “This is the first time the Kentucky coach has ever lost a Sweet 16 game and WE did it!”
Notice I’m saying “we” even though none of us went to Kansas State, and they are not even the main team we cheer for, but I’m going “WE”! Why? The same reason we cheer for any team. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We do. We were made for that.
Listen, you were never meant to be an end in yourself. You were never meant to live life just for yourself. It won’t fulfill you. We were meant to have a King.
The other day I met a lady who would not call herself a Christian. I really hope she visits our church some day. She was a really likable, delightful person. But she lives a lifestyle that many of us would not live or agree with. We talked at length about what she believes and what she considers right and wrong and about her and her partner’s struggle with addiction, and guilt and forgiveness. The whole time I was talking to her, one thought just kept buzzing through my mind again and again. That thought wasn’t “I totally disagree with you.” It wasn’t “Here’s where you’re wrong.” It was this: “She’s on her own. She’s alone.” She doesn’t have a King. She doesn’t have anyone to live for. She doesn’t have anyone to guide her about what’s right, and what’s wrong, and about her purpose in life. She doesn’t anyone to authoritatively say “Here’s how to find peace with your past with God.” So she’s trying to work it out on her own. My heart went out to her, because she doesn’t know the King she was made to serve.
But Perry Creek, we know him! Jesus is our King! Can I just ask this morning: What other King would you want? What other King would you want, than one who had compassion on the sick and the sinner? What other King would you want than one who fearlessly proclaims the truth? What other King would you want than one who gave his life to make Peace with Heaven? He gives meaning to our lives he teaches us right from wrong like no one else can. He’s a King who has made a way for us to have peace with heaven and with ourselves. We live to serve him. It’s what we were made for.
(1) Jesus is a Miracle worker. (2) He is the Messiah-King. That’s why we make much of him now. There’s one more reason. We make much of Jesus:
3. Because Jesus is Master of Creation
Let me show you an amazing couple of verses. Look at verses 39-40. As the disciples and the other followers of Jesus and the crowd begin to make much of Jesus, look at what the Pharisees do:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
– Luke 19:39
The Pharisees are saying “Stop this! The crowd is acting like you are divine. they are waving Palm branches, like you’re a King.” Not only are you violating our theology, but you are going to get us in trouble with the Roman government. rebuke your disciples!” I love Jesus’ response. Look at:
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
– Luke 19:40
I love what Jesus is saying there. He’s saying “Look guys, the hour has come! I have to be recognized. If you don’t do it, creation will because all of creation knows who I am.” In essence, he’s saying to the Pharisees “Are you dumber than a rock?” Seriously what he’s saying is this: “I’m the Lord of Creation.”
And so he is. The Bible tells us “All things were created by Jesus.” He’s the Master of Creation. Let me tell you something: I LOVE creation. I love this world. I don’t love what we’ve done to it, but I love this world. You can keep your skyscrapers. Give me the grandeur of Yellowstone or Victoria Falls or the Outer Banks! Give me the raw power of a wild elephant. Give me the majesty of a lion. Give me the beauty of a white-tailed deer. I love creation! It’s amazing!
When you look at this world, really look at it, when you see the intricacy of the detail, when you see the magnitude of the scope of Creation, when you see how intimate and infinite earth’s Creator is doesn’t it make your heart sing? Don’t the rocks cry out to you? Isn’t this world amazing?
Because of Jesus, because he is the Master of Creation, it’s going to get better. As wonderful as it is, this world is broken. It’s fallen, because of sin. Romans 8 tells us that Creation itself is waiting in eager expectation to see what things are going to be like when Jesus restores this life, and this world to be what he made it to be. He’s the Master and Redeemer of Creation. Because of that, we should make much of him. Because of that, we have hope.
While I was working on this sermon, I got a phone call from Kelley telling me that her grandmother who really introduced Kelley to Jesus, who Kelley was very close to passed away. After 92 years of providing for others and working hard and serving often with no recognition, Alline went home to be with Jesus (her creator), who is now embracing her and renewing her. Who truly is going to make it all better because he’s the Master of Creation
Because we believe that, and because we believe that Jesus is a miracle worker, and because we believe that he is our Messiah-King, we make much of him today. He is our reason for existing. He’s the Lord of Creation. He’s provided for us. He’s guided us. I can’t wait to see where he’s going to take us this year. Let’s make much of him!